John Sullivan on Rock & Chips: Five Gold Rings
Rock & Chips creator John Sullivan writes...
The 90-minute Rock & Chips film which was aired last January ended on the 2nd November, 1960, with the Trotter Family ensconced in their new high-rise council flat with the addition of the just born baby Rodney.
We now join them a couple of months later and find the family more impoverished than ever; Joan lost both her part-time jobs the moment The Ritz Cinema management and the Peckham Town Hall hierarchy discovered she was pregnant - in those days pregnancy was viewed as a sackable offence.
Reg Trotter has had his dole money stopped and Ted Trotter, is waiting out the next 8 years until he gets his state pension.
But despite this things are actually looking up. Del, who, although "officially" still at school, has a profitable, albeit unlicensed, spot on the corner of Peckham Rye market selling American records - records which come from the crews of various American ships which moor in the London docks, that aren't even available in the UK shops yet and therefore making a lot of money which pays the family's bills. And Joan's old job of ice-cream girl at the Ritz has become available and she is desperately looking for a baby-sitter so she can get back to work again.
The one cloud on the horizon from the 12th floor balcony of Sir Walter Raleigh House (it'll be a few more years before it's renamed Nelson Mandela House) is the possible release of Freddy "The Frog" Robdal who has been remanded in The Scrubs for the robbery on a jewellers shop in Margate during The Jolly Boys' Outing. Only two people (Joan and Fred) know that he is the biological father of the eight week old Rodney and Joan fears (knows) that Fred is a possessive man and may come looking for what he sees as his.
And indeed, within a few hours of his release, Fred comes looking for her - but has he come looking to cause mayhem or, in the paraphrased words of the old American folk song, has "the Frog come a courting?"
Again, as with the film, we will meet characters who until now have only been talked about, like Alberto Balsam (above) - the Spanish car-trader who Boycie is working for as a car-cleaner and from where he attains his vocation. Alberto sets himself up as something of a mentor for the teenagers, one of life's experts on all matters masculine, advising them on women, courtship and seduction.
As with the 90-minute film, we continue the two main thrusts of the passionate but intricate (and eventually lethal) love affair between Joan and Fred and the chrysalis-like beginnings of Del and the boys (the Hounds) as they step out on the pathway of life - where we will watch in cringing incredulity the naive foul-ups, in romance and business, that all young men make - and so the saga moves on to its inevitable and pre-ordained tragic, farcical, sad and blackly-funny conclusion.
To sum up this Christmas episode:
Joan begs Fred to leave her alone and never come near her again and then seduces him, and Del gets engaged three times in the same week.
Happy Christmas from 1960 and love & peace to you all.
Watch Rock & Chips: Five Gold Rings on Wednesday 29th December at 9pm on BBC Two